• 3 July 2010
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • 0 Comments
  • Diplomacy

Hot Dog Diplomacy, Take 2

Last year, just before July 4th and only a few months after Obama took office with his pledge to engage Iran, the State Department sent a cable to every US Embassy around the world.  The message: for the first time in decades, Iranian diplomats could attend fourth of July parties.

The idea was met with some hostility in Congress, but overall it was considered a sensible move.  The Dobbins Plan, as it was known, was so popular mostly because the conventional wisdom in Washington agreed that barring American diplomats from interacting with Iranian diplomats abroad was such a self-evidently counterproductive thing to do.  Seriously, for thirty years it hurt Iran not one iota, but deprived us of an entire generation of diplomats who are familiar with Iranians and Iranian officials.

And this prohibition wasn’t a small thing.  When I interned in the US Embassy in Muscat, Oman, the first thing my supervisors told me was that I wasn’t to speak with any Iranian diplomats under any circumstances. I was allowed to shake the hand of an Iranian, but only if I couldn’t avoid it.  (I ended up doing exactly that once, having introduced myself to the guy standing next to me in a receiving line at a reception who happened to be from the Iranian Embassy.  He laughed just as soon as I said I am American, and gave me a knowing nod.)

Among  all the recommendations given to the entering Obama administration, this seemed to everyone like the first change they would enact.

But strangely, the administration has said absolutely nothing about it.  No change to the policy.  Not even a mention.  The prohibition continues.

Friends tell me that it’s only a matter of time before they finally allow low-level diplomatic contact, but by then it will have been more than a year and a half.  I say: it was a good idea last year, and it’s still a good idea this year.  What better way to put our best foot forward than to show Iranians how we celebrate the founding of our democracy?  The message of our founding fathers that imbues every Embassy’s July Fourth celebration is sure to be an appropriate model for Iran during this time of political tumult there.

Posted By Patrick Disney

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Sign the Petition

 

7,349 signatures

Tell Google: Stop playing Persian Gulf name games!

May 14, 2012
Larry Page
Chief Executive Officer
Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, California 94043

Dear Mr. Page:

It has come to our attention that Google has begun omitting the title of the Persian Gulf from its Google Maps application. This is a disconcerting development given the undisputed historic and geographic precedent of the name Persian Gulf, and the more recent history of opening up the name to political, ethnic, and territorial disputes. However unintentionally, in adopting this practice, Google is participating in a dangerous effort to foment tensions and ethnic divisions in the Middle East by politicizing the region’s geographic nomenclature. Members of the Iranian-American community are overwhelmingly opposed to such efforts, particularly at a time when regional tensions already have been pushed to the brink and threaten to spill over into conflict. As the largest grassroots organization in the Iranian-American community, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) calls on Google to not allow its products to become propaganda tools and to immediately reinstate the historically accurate, apolitical title of “Persian Gulf” in all of its informational products, including Google Maps.

Historically, the name “Persian Gulf” is undisputed. The Greek geographer and astronomer Ptolemy referencing in his writings the “Aquarius Persico.” The Romans referred to the "Mare Persicum." The Arabs historically call the body of water, "Bahr al-Farsia." The legal precedent of this nomenclature is also indisputable, with both the United Nations and the United States Board of Geographic Names confirming the sole legitimacy of the term “Persian Gulf.” Agreement on this matter has also been codified by the signatures of all six bordering Arab countries on United Nations directives declaring this body of water to be the Persian Gulf.

But in the past century, and particularly at times of escalating tensions, there have been efforts to exploit the name of the Persian Gulf as a political tool to foment ethnic division. From colonial interests to Arab interests to Iranian interests, the opening of debate regarding the name of the Persian Gulf has been a recent phenomenon that has been exploited for political gain by all sides. Google should not enable these politicized efforts.

In the 1930s, British adviser to Bahrain Sir Charles Belgrave proposed to rename the Persian Gulf, “Arabian Gulf,” a proposal that was rejected by the British Colonial and Foreign offices. Two decades later, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company resurrected the term during its dispute with Mohammad Mossadegh, the Iranian Prime Minister whose battle with British oil interests would end in a U.S.-sponsored coup d'état that continues to haunt U.S.-Iran relations. In the 1960s, the title “Arabian Gulf” became central to propaganda efforts during the Pan-Arabism era aimed at exploiting ethnic divisions in the region to unite Arabs against non-Arabs, namely Iranians and Israelis. The term was later employed by Saddam Hussein to justify his aims at territorial expansion. Osama Bin Laden even adopted the phrase in an attempt to rally Arab populations by emphasizing ethnic rivalries in the Middle East.

We have serious concerns that Google is now playing into these efforts of geographic politicization. Unfortunately, this is not the first time Google has stirred controversy on this topic. In 2008, Google Earth began including the term “Arabian Gulf” in addition to Persian Gulf as the name for the body of water. NIAC and others called on you then to stop using this ethnically divisive propaganda term, but to no avail. Instead of following the example of organizations like the National Geographic Society, which in 2004 used term “Arabian Gulf” in its maps but recognized the error and corrected it, Google has apparently decided to allow its informational products to become politicized.

Google should rectify this situation and immediately include the proper name for the Persian Gulf in Google Maps and all of its informational products. The exclusion of the title of the Persian Gulf diminishes your applications as informational tools, and raises questions about the integrity and accuracy of information provided by Google.

We strongly urge you to stay true to Google’s mission – “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” – without distorting or politicizing that information. We look forward to an explanation from you regarding the recent removal of the Persian Gulf name from Google Maps and call on you to immediately correct this mistake.

Sincerely,

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